Big Fat Liar

on February 08, 2002 by Paul Clinton
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Paul Giamatti's gift for neurotic mayhem lifts “Big Fat Liar” out of the realm of factory-produced children's pictures that preach various life lessons. Giamatti, who broke into movies as Howard Stern's frustrated nemesis Pig Vomit in “Private Parts,” again gives a superlative performance, underlining why he is one the top comedians working in Hollywood.

Giamatti is Marty Wolf, a deceptive and egomaniacal producer who steals the English paper of 14-year-old Jason Shepherd (Frankie Muniz of TV's “Malcolm in the Middle”) and pawns it off as his own idea for a hit movie. After seeing the trailer of his story, the kid travels from his small Michigan town to the studio to plead with Wolf to give credit where it's due. Wolf refuses, sending Jason into full-tilt retaliation mode to take revenge.

Dan Schneider's script is funniest when it is devising pranks for Jason and his friend Kaylee (Amanda Bynes) to play on Wolf. However, it's Giamatti's no-holds-barred mania that sustains the momentum.

Schneider has a flair for writing credible dialogue for children; it isn't condescending or too precocious. And helmer Shawn Levy sets up most of the jokes fairly well. But the movie loses steam when Giamatti isn't on the screen; the other actors can't sustain the pace. Muniz is passable as Giamatti's straight man; however, the young actor is still a bit too cerebral for his own good.

There are a number of funny cameos, including Jaleel “Urkel” White, who shows up as himself: a fairly successful television actor who can't get any respect. Less successful is the appearance by Lee Majors, going through the motions an over-the-hill stunt man. Starring Frankie Muniz, Amanda Bynes and Paul Giamatti. Directed by Shawn Levy. Written by Dan Schneider. Produced by Brian Robbins and Michael Tollin. A Universal release. Comedy. Rated PG for some language. Running time: 87 min

Tags: tarring Frankie Muniz, Amanda Bynes and Paul Giamatti. Directed by Shawn Levy. Written by Dan Schneider. Produced by Brian Robbins, Michael Tollin, Universal, Comedy
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